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A pack a day

| Monday, April 20, 2015

I am shamelessly addicted to gum. College has only worsened my addiction, and I chew a pack a day. But feeding my habit is rather expensive, especially since I buy most of my gum from the Huddle, and cheap is one thing the Huddle certainly is not.

Indeed, prices at the Huddle are strikingly higher than market value. A half-gallon of milk costs $3.19 at the Huddle, while an entire gallon could be purchased for $2.69 at the Walgreens just a few blocks away. A two-liter cola product is $2.25 at the Huddle and only $1.29 at Walgreens. Worst of all, the same pack of Orbitz gum that at the Huddle costs $1.59 is exactly 79 cents at Walgreens.

These high rates charged by the Huddle, made possible by an absence of competitors who cater to on-campus students, seem distinctly monopolistic in character. And unfortunately for the students of Notre Dame, the Huddle’s steep prices are not the only seemingly needless expense with which students are faced. Consider the cost of room and board at Notre Dame. For the 2014-2015 academic year, room and board fees were about $13,846, which presumably means at least $7,000 was charged for housing alone. On a monthly basis, this translates to $875. Now consider the monthly rent in fall 2014 for an apartment at the Foundry, an apartment complex on Eddy Street located just south of campus. A two-bedroom corner apartment, complete with a kitchen, family room and two full bathrooms, costs around $1,900 per month. If four students were to split this amount, the cost per student per month would total $475, significantly less than the monthly cost of a dorm. The disparity in price is made all the more surprising given the fact that an Eddy Street apartment is better maintained, generally nicer and much larger than an average dorm room.

Of course, as with any business enterprise — a classification that undoubtedly applies to Notre Dame — there are some unavoidable inefficiencies and deficiencies that result in inflated pricing. But even if I were willing to accept the outrageously high tuition rates charged by the University, which I’m not, I simply cannot understand why standard market prices do not extend to room and board or the items sold at the Huddle. Why should it be that students have to pay more for milk from the Huddle than for milk purchased just down the street? Why should it be that a cramped and poorly-smelling dorm room costs nearly twice the amount as a considerably nicer apartment on Eddy Street? And why in heaven’s name should the same $1.59 get me only one pack of gum on campus when it can get me two packs anywhere else?

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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